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Michelle Obama Pushes Mentoring Program for Teen Girls

5 years ago
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Cat-ching up with First Lady Michelle Obama, starting with Saturday's Halloween party at the White House and then looking at her week ahead, Mrs. Obama dressed up like a cat for Halloween -- a tame kitty, not to be confused with the Catwoman in Batman films and comics, and certainly no skin-tight costume like in the movies. Mrs. Obama wore an orange-and-black leopard top and cat ears and lots of gold bracelets as she handed out White House treats with hubby the president and her mother, Marian Robinson.

On Monday, Mrs. Obama starts a week that will be fairly busy, with public events on three days. Mrs. Obama on Monday afternoon is going to throw a spotlight on mentoring when she kicks off what is being billed as a "White House leadership and mentoring imitative." A group of 10th- and 11th-grade high school students -- only girls for now from Washington, Virginia and Maryland; not clear how they will be selected -- will be paired with senior women from the White House East and West Wings. The mentoring will include learning about how these White House women (the East Wing did not want to release names on Sunday) got where they are.

A mentoring program for men will be launched at some future time; the guidance from the East Wing only said "soon." Wouldn't we all like to know the stories the White House women will tell the girls about their careers-and surviving and thriving in the male-dominated Obama White House? Well, too bad, because the event is closed to the press, except for Mrs. Obama's remarks. The aim, according to the East Wing, is to give local students "a unique opportunity to participate in education, career development, life-skill and mentoring activities" with these senior women. "The goal of the program is to have a concrete impact on the lives of young women by engaging, encouraging, and inspiring students from different walks of life to pursue their dreams and achieve their full potential."

Mrs. Obama's smallish portfolio is getting carefully enlarged with the spotlight on mentoring, which, by the way, is not a new topic for Mrs. Obama and is closely related to the community and public service work she is already engaged in. During a speech last May 12, at the Corporation for National and Community Service, Mrs. Obama talked how she left her job at a Chicago law firm not sure what she wanted to do-except putting more focus into activities she enjoyed like mentoring. "So I left my job at the firm and started to then think about what I wanted my life to become. And when I thought about the things that I cared about, the things that I was passionate about, service was always somewhere in there. I thought about the things that I did for enjoyment," she said. Mentoring was one of those things. "Mentoring, working with other young people, trying to help them get to where I had -- I was to help them think about their lives differently. So I knew that service was always going to be a part of that passion. So my goal was to figure out how I could not do that in my spare time, but how I could make my work service," she said.

Last spring, Mrs. Obama and a host of prominent women visited local schools to talk to young women and then invited another batch of women to the White House for dinner and more talk. President Obama did the male version with a guys BBQ this summer with high profile men. The orchestrated rollout included Mrs. Obama hitting the December cover of Glamour magazine with CBS anchor Katie Couric interviewing her for the magazine on role models and mentoring.

On Wednesday, Mrs. Obama turns to the arts. She will hand out awards at a White House ceremony to arts programs for underserved kids. Later in the day, Mrs. Obama hosts another installment of the Music Series she started, with classical music getting its due. (Jazz and country music sessions have already been held). In the afternoon, classical music stars will tutor students with workshops and a concert. Stars include violinist Joshua Bell, guitarist Sharon Isbin, cellist Alisa Weilerstein and pianist Awadagin Pratt. In the evening, these artists will offer up an East Room performance. And on Thursday, Mrs. Obama continues her tour of federal agencies started earlier in the year, this time visiting the Department of Energy, where she will encourage the study of science.

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